JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
More than two thousand non-profit organizations in Mississippi have lost their tax exempt status. This should remind all of us that before we donate any of our hard earned money we need to make sure the charities are legitimate. Mississippians have a wonderful spirit of giving, but unfortunately there are those that would take advantage of that generosity. Here are some good questions to ask next time you receive a request for a donation:
- Is the charity or fundraiser registered with the state?
- Get the name, address and telephone number of the organization asking for the donation?
- Exactly how will the donation be used?
- What percentage of the contribution will actually be spent on the charitable purpose of the organization?
Nothing makes me madder than someone who uses an emotional appeal or high pressure tactics to make you feel guilty about not contributing. Ask lots of questions and verify the organization before you send a check or give your credit card information. The Better Business Bureau and the Secretary of State are good places to start your investigation.
Here are a few more tips:
- Be wary of emotional appeals or high-pressure tactics designed to make you feel guilty about not contributing. No legitimate organizations will insist that you contribute immediately. Legitimate charities want you to be sure that you are donating to a worthy cause.
- Be wary if you get evasive or vague answers to your questions about the charity and how the money is used.
- Be wary of solicitors who offer to send a courier or "runner" to pick up your donation. This is a sure sign of a scam. Instead, tell the solicitor that you want to think about your decision. Or, you can tell them that you will mail your donation if you decide to give.
- Be suspicious of solicitors who say they will only accept your donation in cash. This, too, is a likely sign of a scam. Con artists want cash so there will be no paper trail for authorities to follow.
- Be suspicious of any charity that is unwilling to provide you with its annual report and financial statement.
- Don't judge a charity based solely on impressive sounding names. Instead, be careful about copycat organizations that use a name that's similar to another well-known charity. Often, this is a ploy by a charity to confuse you and capitalize on the good name of another, better-known organization.
- Be suspicious if a charity's mailing address isn't a specific office or street address.
- Be suspicious if a solicitor guarantees that you'll win a prize if you make a donation.
- Be suspicious if a caller requests that your check be made payable to an individual rather than a charity or organization.
- Be suspicious if a solicitor asks for your credit card, bank account or Social Security number or other personal financial information over the phone.
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